Jun 302014

The Web is a wonderful place to learn about new crafting techniques and challenges. Earlier today I ran across a Facebook announcement from Michael Sellick, the founder and leader of The Crochet Crowd, an online community of crochet enthusiasts. Mikey, as he is known among his friends, invites everyone who crochets to participate in the 2014 Stitch-cation Summer Challenge, basically a patchwork afghan made out of squares of assorted stitches and colors. The challenge begins on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The goals behind the 2014 Stitch-cation Summer Challenge are as follows:

  • Learn and/or be refreshed with 10 different stitch combinations.
  • Learn how to change colors effectively without hideous knots hanging out.
  • Explore color with a minimum of eight different colors by crocheting squares, playing with color in each square, not necessarily one color per square.
  • Use your imagination when assembling your afghan.
  • Create a Free Choice Border using your own design of at least 4 rounds.

Mikey provides you with a free Stitch-cation Workbook containing all of the crochet stitch patterns that are required in the challenge. Although you can certainly print the 22-page PDF document, I recommend that you download it to your computer or portable digital device, since it contains links to how-to videos.

The sample afghan that Mikey commissioned has 20 squares crocheted from economical Red Heart Super Saver Yarn, but you can make your afghan any size you wish, as long as you have at least 20 squares using each stitch twice. You can also use any yarn you wish; it does not have to be Red Heart Super Saver Yarn. If you use variegated yarn, that counts as one of the eight minimum colors. You can also make as many afghans as you wish, and each one counts as a separate entry in the challenge.

Complete your project by September 1, 2014 and send an e-mail to Mikey at mikeyshelpdesk@hotmail.com with a photo of your completed project so that it can be included in a gallery and be eligible for a random drawing of 3 winners. Make sure you include “Stitchcation” in the subject line. The winners will each receive a Red Heart Fully Loaded Yarn Bag with Crochet Crowd Gifts. You are also encouraged to post a photo on the Crochet Crowd Facebook page.

I’ve decided to use yarn that reminds me of Easter eggs, definitely bright and summery.


If you are going to participate in this fun learning challenge, make sure you follow the complete rules found HERE. Happy hooking!

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 152014

It has been a while since I have been sewing on a consistent basis . . . and what I sew today is very different from what I used to sew. Decades ago I sewed dresses and skirts for myself, and play clothes for our son. Today my projects are much smaller and tend to be functional home items such as potholders, aprons, organizers, and—as I announced in January—bags. But not a single bag has been sewn since the beginning of the year, I must admit. I have received two bag patterns through the online Bag of the Month Club, but beautiful as they are, I am a little intimidated by all the pages of the instructions: 25 pages for the Bye Bye Love Bag and 15 pages for the Butterfly Sling Purse.

So, I have decided some warm-up bag projects may be in order before I run a full bag marathon.

Earlier this week, I attended a Purse Party held at Quilter’s Cupboard in Ankeny, Iowa. This is the second or third one to which I have gone. It is typically held in mid-February and is designed to introduce sewists to a wide range of bag patterns, bag sewing tools, and—this time—to different options for lining or adding structure to your bag. “We all know,” says Cindy Peters, owner of Quilter’s Cupboard, “that the outside of your bag is only as good as the inside of your bag.”

Quilter's Cupboard

Below are some tips I’ve gathered from the collective Purse Parties I have attended:

1. When you sew with vinyl, either use a Teflon-coated presser foot, or adhere a little transparent tape to the bottom of the foot so that it will glide smoothly over the vinyl, instead of sticking to it.

2. If you like to add some hand embroidery to your bag projects, backing it with Shapeflex woven fusible interfacing adds body without weight.

3. If you are working with multiple fused layers of fabric and/or fusible yardage, let each layer cool down before adding more layers.

4. One way to mash seams is with pliers.

5. Use Scotchguard on bags to make them dirt-resistant.

6. Use spray starch after washing bags to give the fabric that crisp “just bought” feeling.

So, what is the first warm-up bag I decided to tackle? At the Purse Party held earlier this week, all of the attendees were given a free pattern using vinyl .pet mesh (also known as vinyl bag mesh). The owner of the business, in fact, told us she made dozens of these bags as Christmas gifts. “They work up really fast,” she said, “and they’re addictive.” I took Cindy at her word, and decided to make a yarn project bag for myself. This project, incidentally, satisfies all the requirements for the February Blogging Business Artisans challenge, spelled out by Sharla of Beaded Tail:

Love is celebrated this month so show us what you love! Whether it’s time with family, spring around the corner, food or furbabies, create something that shows us what you love!

When you work with vinyl—whether it’s solid or the mesh variety—you can’t really use pins because they leave behind holes. I find Clover Wonder Clips to be indispensable. They are rather expensive at $6.95 for 10 of them, however, so binder clips from the office supply store will work equally well if you’re on a tight budget.


The pattern suggests you use chalk to draw a stitching line on the pet mesh, but I couldn’t find my chalk marker. Washi tape is a great substitute, however. Thankfully, I had a roll on hand, courtesy of Deb Baroff of Stroll Through Storyland, who was my Secret Santa this past December. Thank you, Deb!


The straps on the bag were made using the Lazy Girl Wrap & Fold method. Basically, you wrap a strip of stabilizer (Stiff Stuff, in my case), or interfacing, “like a hot dog in a crescent roll,” according to Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs. This is a quick and easy alternative to sewing a tube of fabric, turning it inside out, and threading stabilizer through it. As Joan says, “Ewwww. And we can do better.”


Because I worked on this bag between other tasks—answering e-mails, doing laundry, finishing some handmade books, and more—I suspect it took me longer to finish it than if I had sewn it without interruption. However, I would guess it took only a few hours to complete. Cindy told her Purse Party participants that you can also use favorite-but-outgrown or worn out T-shirts for the front of your bag if you back the knit fabric with stabilizer. If I try this, I will share it with you in a future post. For now, this is my finished yarn project bag. The fabric, “Knitty Kitty,” was designed by Greta Lynn for Kanvas Studio in association with Benartex. If you use it, be aware that the red is not color-fast; I tend to pre-wash my fabrics in cold water and then tumble dry them on low heat. The red in this fabric bled a little—not critical for a bag like this that will probably not be laundered or, if it is, will be hand-washed and air-dried.

DSCN8165Next on the agenda is a small zipper pouch to hold T-pins used for seaming when I crochet. I am confident that if I take on a few smaller projects before attempting the official Bag of the Month patterns, I will handle the sewing more confidently. Kristin Link of Sew Mama Sew suggests that if you take the time to enjoy the ritual of sewing, you’ll get more out of it. “There is a zen proverb that goes, ‘when walking, walk,'” she says in her post, Joyful Sewing: 12 Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Hobby. That’s my goal, so I’m going to walk through a few simpler bag projects before running with more complicated ones.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 272014

January is traditionally the month in which folks make resolutions. Do I usually make them? Honestly, no, but I do set loose, hopefully achievable goals. This month Blogging Business Artisans‘ team captain, Edi Royer of Memories for Life Scrapbooks, challenged team members to:

Blog about your plans for 2014 and share them with the team. Tell us what you have in store for your Etsy shop as well as your personal life. Feel free to share photos of upcoming projects or just make a list of resolutions/goals.

Here goes! In general, I hope that 2014 will be all about bringing balance into my life, as follows:

Gold Scales of Justice by Kittisak

Image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Find a better balance between volunteer work and creative efforts.

2. Establish a photography schedule so that more products can be listed in my Etsy shops, instead of languishing on a table or in a box.

3. Have enough product on hand for craft shows so that my Etsy shops don’t have to be emptied in order to stock a show.

4. Learn about bag construction so that I can develop a few bags to sell on Etsy in a fourth shop that is just waiting for products to be listed.

5. Clean up the paper crafting studio and sewing room so that I can leave the doors to these rooms open when guests visit.

6. Lose weight and keep more of it off (this seems to be my goal every year).

That’s it, folks! If you have blogged about your goals this year, feel free to include a link to your post in the comments below so we can encourage each other.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.